Women’s Hoops NCAA Tournament Press Conference
COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Head coach Gary Blair and members of the 14th-ranked Texas A&M women’s basketball team met with members of the media today to talk about tomorrow’s game against Albany in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
As the No. 3 seed in the Raleigh Regional, the Aggies step onto the hardwood this weekend for their seventh consecutive trip to the Big Dance. A&M faces 14th-seeded Albany on Saturday, March 17 at Reed Arena. Tipoff between the Aggies and the Great Danes is set for 5:30 p.m. (CT) on ESPN2.
MARCH 16, 2012
FIRST ROUND NEWS CONFERENCE QUOTES
TEXAS A&M – HEAD COACH GARY BLAIR, SENIOR SYDNEY CARTER, JUNIOR KELSEY BONE, FRESHMAN ALEXIA STANDISH
HEAD COACH GARY BLAIR
On coaching against Albany Head Coach Henderson
She played at Iowa and Georgia, I followed her in the recruiting trail way back when I was at Arkansas. When she went to Southwest Missouri, she had to replace a legend. She was so competitive. Our second year here, we make the WNIT and won our first two ball games. Then we went to Southwest Missouri, I played there a number of times at Arkansas and it’s just a great venue there and we were 22 points down and had a chance to win it in the end. Katie (Hutchinson), I like her confidence, she’s got swag. That’s what you have to have as an athlete and a coach. But she’s so good to her kids. I think y’all have got a winner right there. But be proud of who you have and let her take her team to the next level. I know this is your first dance, but this is not her first dance. She’s been there before, she’s a veteran and I told her she could do everything except her husband cannot call the ballgame. He’s a former NBA official. I’m excited about playing against her. What I will not do is play her one-on-one. I’ll let my players do it.
On getting to play at home, and how does your team differ this year?
The team differs a whole lot just because of the personality, and the three strong team leaders that we had on and off the court. We knew who our go-to player was, who our go-to person was in Sydney Colson. A player who could create points for others and not let a turnover bother her. Then you had Maryann Baker, 6th man player of the year, but she was our leader in the locker room. Any problem, she would step right up and attack it. This team is trying to find its identity, and I think we’re doing it as a collective group. Carter talks the most just because her defensive presence, that’s what you do on defense, I wish we had some more talkers. But on offense, we have some quiet players out there with Standish at the one, Tyra at the three and Adaora at the four. We have to share who’s going to be the go-to person on the court. There isn’t one. We didn’t have a single player of the week, first time ever that has happened in the Big 12 for A&M. It shows you there’s a lot of we in us instead of a lot of me. When you hear a Kelsey Bone speak, just think about what she’ll sound like in a couple of years. She will be our go-to person then. That’s the biggest difference in the team, and I’m not afraid to pull any of those kids in at any time. I was the most nervous person in the world knowing we didn’t have Tyra, but we’re going to have her for Saturday though.
On Alexia Standish’s first NCAA Tournament, what do you expect from her?
She’ll make a mistake early, we all do. As a rookie head coach as a rookie point guard, get it out of your system early, we all make mistakes. Don’t’ be afraid of a turnover, but don’t be afraid of creating for others. She’s doing well in reversing herself to the outside and knocking down threes on the outside. She’s shooting the shot that she’s most comfortable with, that little running three pointer. The rest of her offensive game, we’re still working on. But that’s the same thigns that those three WNBA players had to do when they first got here. Standish is getting better and better. But we also play
the point guard by matchups. If Pratcher fits better in the matchup, I have no hesitation starting Pratcher and having Standish come off the bench.
On the announcement of Vic Schaefer leaving
You think about the last two weeks, we beat Tech, I go into the hall of fame. We lose in Austin, Baylor is in there somewhere at our place in a sellout. Then you come to a Big 12 and play tremendous two ball games. The Vic thing had been going on for about two weeks. No one but Vic and I was aware of it. Then you go to the Big 12 tournament, you get the job done, you’re acting like a defending National Champion then you run into the best team in the nation in Baylor. Then the selection show, we felt good about our draw, not the teams we’re playing, but we’re at home for the first time. We’ve hosted every other National Championships besides women’s basketball. We wanted to show the country that we’re a basketball power. That we’re going to be one of the top-5 in attendance in this regional. You put all those things in perspective with Vic leaving. I guess it helps that we have so much going on that we can’t think about Vic leaving as much as we think about Vic here producing.. Doing his work at night, doing what he does best, which is preparation. Most marriages don’t last 15 years. Vic and I lasted 15 years, but we’re not getting divorced, we’re just doing a communal marriage. I’m happy for Vic, I’m happy he’s getting his chance, and he’s going to be very good at Mississippi State.
On having Tyra White back and her being ready to go. What will she be able to do this week?
She’ll blend in. She’s not the type that comes over and takes over a ball game. She’s capable of doing that, but it’s not her personality. She’s going to get her 12-18 points, that’s her normal range. Her shooting percentage has not been quite as good as the firs three years, but we’re expecting her to make the tough shots. I think she’ll be fine, but if I can monitor her a little these first games, then I will, because I can play my bench more to get them used to an NCAA situations, not just playing time. Can they handle the pressure of an NCAA game, that’s what you want to do in your first round game to be able to make it to a second round game.
On Kelsey Bone’s progress in her first year
We probably made a mistake last year as a coaching staff not being demanding enough on her to become a better player. We were just ecstatic having her here, so we just let her go at her own pace. If I could do it all over, I would’ve made her more accountable in everything we do. This is her first summer not to play USA basketball in three years. I think in the last month, you’re starting to see the Kelsey Bone that we all expected. She has the ability to take over a ball game. She’s getting double teamed a lot. She’s turned into a very good passer in the last half of the season. She’s second in our league in field goal percentage. But the shots that she takes, she could be first in the league sometimes. Those hanging 12 footers. I want her to be more of a power player and be able to get people in foul trouble. She’s not been going to the foul line enough for us because she’s shooting fade away shots, and I want her to get somebody into foul trouble.
Talk about the Big 12 Tournament and the growth in terms of chemistry, what did you see when you were there?
There was confidence, a little bit of a swag about us, a no fear attitude when a player would go down another person would step up. Kids would take coaching and stick to a game plan and we wouldn’t have to start drawing plays up in the
sand. This team is starting to get it. We know we can’t just throw a Danielle Adams out there and say ‘hey give me 22 and 10.’ We know we have to do it as a collective team. The team is very good about sharing the spotlight. But we learn in here, did you see how good Standish did there. She’s not usually up here with these two who are a reporter’s dream because they’ll give an instant quote. But I wanted Standish to be up here and feel that responsibility with those other two who love the microphone. So it was good for her.
How excited is this community, and how excited are you about the first two rounds being here?
We sold somewhere 5,500 tickets. I hope we’re a last minute sell, because I want to get around 8,000. I know we’re on Spring Break, but I know there are another 140,000 people here too. Whether there are Aggie fans or basketball fans, come out and support something special. I’m doing great because it’s March Madness. I want to feel good about March Madness. We’re trying to make Bryan College Station more into a basketball town not an Aggie town. To do this, we have to keep having events on campus to educate. We had to do this to go up last year to the regional in Dallas. We were in Dallas and our fans I knew would jump on the bandwagon. The last thing I want to say about that, have y’all looked at Barrack Obama’s bracket? He has us losing in the second round. He has zero chance of carrying the state of Texas. He has us losing in the second round, I love him. We’re defending national champions-- he’s a defending national president. You’ve got to start backing the teams that got you there.
On getting to coach against Arkansas and Coach Tom Collen
Marty, getting a chance to coach against Tom is going to be very special. When he went to Colorado State and Lousiville, we didn’t get an opportunity to play. Think about it, Tom Collen and Vic Schaefer, 19 years of my life. 19 years, two people. Tom for 4, he got me the first class that took me to the Final Four. Tom left went to Colorado State, and then we went to the Final Four in Vic’s first year. In Vic’s last year, I would love nothing better to keep him coaching here into April then send him on his way. There’s nothing like your family tree, your family tree as a person as a coach. Those kids have helped make me who I am. They’re good people and I knew our paths would cross someday.
FRESHMAN GUARD ALEXIA STANDISH
What do you know about Albany?
They have a good point guard. They’re a very fundamental team. But we have Sydney on the ball, so we’re not too worried about it. I think they’re a very good team.
What are your emotions going into your first NCAA tournament?
I’m definitely very excited, but nothing changes. I’m going to keep playing how we’ve been playing as a team. I look forward to being that leader on a floor that I’ve been this year. I’m just going to play my best, play hard and try to do well.
Talk about this senior class and what it’s meant to be playing with them as a freshman?
We’ve had a great senior class, they’re awesome role models, they work hard. They’re leaders off and on the court. They all just work extremely hard they’re very coachable. To be able to se them play and listen to their advice has been good for me.
Following in footsteps of Texas A&M’s best point guards, how do you play like them and how is your game different?
They’re all three great players, also extremely athletic and fast. That’s where I lack in my ability is athleticism. But in that way, I watch film watch what they did with their film, just to learn the game a lot and become a student of the game to make up for maybe the athleticism that I don’t have.
JUNIOR CENTER KELSEY BONE
Explain your excitement going into the tournament, escpecially as a host.
As a team we are just appearing, its time to play basketball again. We got to have a couple days off, we’v e been working harder and we’ve also been working smarter. We are excited to play at home again. We got tomorrow and if things go well, we got Monday. I think for us we are just excited to be playng, myself in partricular, it’s the thing I have dreamed of as a little girl as soon as I started playing basketball and now that the time is here and we get to play two games in front of the best fans in the country, it’s really exciting.
What do you know about Albany?
The night I heard we were going to face them I went to their website and I saw they had a player that was 6-8 and I was like really, again? But I think they are just a great group of girls. Coach was talking about how players up north are a little different from players down south because they are such gym rats. What they lack in talent or speed they make up for their love of the game. When you watch them on film you can tell how they’ve developed a chemistry with each other. Their big guard and their post players, when they come in they just know the game of basketball, and they know what they are doing and do it well.
You talked earlier in the year about your chemistry developing slowly, how has it changed since then?
I think building from the Big 12 Tournament our chemistry has gotten a lot better. We got some really good wins without Tyra [White]. I think that helped the rest of us understand what we were all individually capable of. Lexi [Standish] came in, she had to step up, so I think it helped everyone understand themselves a little bit better individually. It gave people an opportunity to see its still just basketball. Now we put Tyra back in and we keep the train moving.
What have the conversations been about making a big run for Coach Vic Schaefer?
Initially we were really bummed about it, but its part of the game. It is definitly a motivating factor, aside from him just being our coach, he’s an Aggie. Its not just about us, its about winning for him now, and its been talked about and its something we are focused on and sending him off on the right note. I went up to the gym last night to practice my free throws and it was 10 o’clock at night and he was still here and to see something like that and to see his focus is still with us, it gives us something to play for.
SENIOR GUARD SYNDEY CARTER
Explain how the tournament last year will affect your play this year, will it give you an edge knowing what to excpect?
I think we just went into the tournament last year with confidence. We knew we were a good team and we knew everyone doubted us because they saw they put us in the same bracket as Baylor, who already beat us three times. I think that game stunned so many people. That win was our motivation and our fuel not just to be satisfied with the Final Four but to keep going and win the whole thing. I think we had so many outside motivations outside our goals as a team that it gave us a lot of confidence going into the game. I think that us winning the championship last year gives us confidence for this year, we know what we are capable of. It isn’t the same team but we know what we are capable of. I don’t think this is a year where we lost something, I think it is just a reloading year where we have players that can do the exact same thing any given night. We know what we are capable of and we have the same coaches leading our team, so we have trust in our coaches and trust in our teammates that we can get it done.
What impresses you about Albany’s team?
They are definitely fundamentally sound and I think they have really good chemistry and know what each player is capable of. They know when to give the right player the ball at the right time.
How much different does playing at home make?
I definitly like it because I hate to pack and I’ve been laying in my bed as long as I possibly can. I think as college students everyone wants to lay in their bed all day. I think it being in our gym, I think its big, and me being a senior its nice to finally get the first two rounds here and get the fan support behind you. The fan support here has been great and has really carried us through a lot of our games. I am just happy we are able to host this year and am very grateful for the opportunity.